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April 2019
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FamilyTreeDNA Deputizes Itself, Starts Pitching DNA Matching Services To Law Enforcement

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One DNA-matching company has decided it's going to corner an under-served market: US law enforcement. FamilyTreeDNA -- last seen here opening up its database to the FBI without informing its users first -- is actively pitching its services to law enforcement.

The television spot, to air in San Diego first, asks anyone who has had a direct-to-consumer DNA test from another company, like 23andMe or Ancestry.com, to upload a copy so that law enforcement can spot any connections to DNA found at crime scenes.The advertisement features Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, a Salt Lake City teen who was abducted in 2002 but later found alive. “If you are one of the millions of people who have taken a DNA test, your help can provide the missing link,” he says in the spot.
Welcome to FamilyTreeDNA's cooperating witness program -- one it profits from by selling information customers give it to law enforcement. The tug at the heartstrings is a nice touch. FamilyTreeDNA is finally being upfront with users about its intentions for their DNA samples. This is due to its founder deciding -- without consulting his customers -- that they're all as willing as he is to convert your DNA samples into public goods.
Bennett Greenspan, the firm’s founder, said he had decided he had a moral obligation to help solve old murders and rapes. Now he thinks that customers will agree and make their DNA available specifically to help out.
FamilyTreeDNA sounds like it's finally going to seek consent from its customers, but only after having abused their trust once and under the assumption they're all going to play ball. While some DNA companies like 23andMe are insisting on at least a subpoena before handing over access to DNA database search results, other companies are staying quiet about law enforcement access or specifically targeting law enforcement agencies with ads promising to help them work through their cold case files.Consent is great, but it's never going to be complete consent, no matter how FamilyTreeDNA shapes the argument. As Elizabeth Joh points out at Slate, there's a whole lot of people involved who will never be asked for their consent once a customer agrees to allow DNA-matching sites to hand over their samples to law enforcement.
[W]hen you volunteer your DNA sample, you’re volunteering your genetic family tree, without having asked your parents, siblings, cousins, and distant cousins if they agree. That upends the usual way we think about providing information to law enforcement. You can’t give the police lawful consent to search your third cousin’s house, even if your third cousin (who you may never have met) is suspected of having been involved in a serious crime. Why are we allowing a distant relative to grant police permission to your DNA?
There's no informed consent happening here. Customers are being treated as data points law enforcement can peruse at its leisure. A customer who agrees to be a good citizen (by clicking OK on a submission box on a private company's website) may learn later their sample was used to lock up a close relative. Some people will be fine with this outcome. Others may regret being the critical piece of evidence used to incarcerate one of their relatives.Whatever the case is, very few companies are being upfront about the effects of opening up database access to law enforcement. FamilyTreeDNA is using a crime victim's parent and the founder's Team Blue sympathies to hustle its customers towards compliance. Users who don't like this turn of events will likely find it far more difficult to remove their DNA from FamilyTreeDNA's database than simply hold their nose and become an willing part of this partnership.

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Office Depot And Partner Ordered To Pay $35 Million For Tricking Consumers Into Thinking They Had Malware

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I have worked in the B2B IT services industry for well over a decade. Much of that time was spent on the sales side of the business. As such, I have become very familiar with the tools and tactics used to convince someone that they are in need of the type of IT support you can provide. One common tactic is to use software to do an assessment of a machine to determine whether it's being properly maintained and secured. If it is not, a simple report showing the risks tends to be quite persuasive in convincing a prospective client to sign up for additional support.Done the right way, these reports are factual and convincing. Done the Office Depot way, it seems only the latter is a requirement. The FTC announced on its site that Office Depot and its support partner, Support.com, Inc., has agreed to pay $35 million to settle a complaint in which the FTC alleged that consumers were tricked using a computer health application into thinking their machines were infected with malware when they often times were not.

Office Depot has agreed to pay $25 million while its software supplier, Support.com, Inc., has agreed to pay $10 million as part of their settlements with the FTC. The FTC intends to use these funds to provide refunds to consumers.“Consumers have a hard enough time protecting their computers from malware, viruses, and other threats,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “This case should send a strong message to companies that they will face stiff consequences if they use deception to trick consumers into buying costly services they may not need.”
The complaint itself, embedded below, is quite the read. Office Depot's scheme went like this. For a decade, Office Depot would take in customers' computers for diagnostics. Through it's partnership with Support.com, PC Health Check would be run on these machines and the owners of them would be given a short questionnaire to fill out. While that application can in fact be useful in detecting malware on machines, the FTC alleges that the "report" delivered to consumers was based entirely off of the short questionnaire instead. And what kind of questions were consumers asked to answer to indicate whether their machines were infected with malware or not?Well...
These included questions about whether the computer ran slow, received virus warnings, crashed often, or displayed pop-up ads or other problems that prevented the user from browsing the Internet.The complaint alleges that Office Depot and Support.com configured the PC Health Check Program to report that the scan found malware symptoms or infections whenever consumers answered yes to at least one of these four questions, despite the fact that the scan had no connection to the “malware symptoms” results. After displaying the results of the scan, the program also displayed a “view recommendation” button with a detailed description of the tech services consumers were encouraged to purchase—services that could cost hundreds of dollars—to fix the problems.
Members of the IT industry are already laughing at this. There is a universal understanding in our industry that if you ask a user if his or her machine is running slow, he or she will say yes. Full stop. To base a recommendation off of this answer, never mind to configure software to report malware symptoms based on it, is ludicrous in the extreme. Unless, of course, you're building a tech support business on the strategy of tricking consumers into thinking they have malware infections when they do not. In that case, all of this makes perfect sense.Except that it's also a violation of laws against deceptive practices. It's also dumb in the extreme, as it's the kind of trick you can only get caught at once to torpedo your reputation and cause the public to never seek out your help for tech support again. Put another way, there is zero reason for anyone to ever seek out Office Depot's help for their computers ever again.That's no way to run a business.

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Local SEO Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide to Higher Rankings

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By Elaine Bennett Source: Pixabay Research says that 46% of Google searches are local. Moreover, 88% of local searchers call or visit the business they found online within 24 hours. However, to get your small business noticed in the overcrowded SERPs, you need to optimize your website for local search. Local SEO is what helps […]The post Local SEO Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide to Higher Rankings appeared first on Adotas.

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